Spotlight: On Christine Perfect – ‘Get Like You Used To Be’

Christine McVie turns seventy-five today, June 12; born Christine Anne Perfect in 1943.

Perfect was something of an anomaly on the British music scene in the early and late sixties.  Aside from Jo Ann Kelly, there were few, if any, female instrumentalists working commercially at the time (please post any that I may not be aware of below).

She first found success with Chicken Shack, a cool counterpoint to Stan Webb’s more overwrought persona.  She and Webb each wrote two numbers for the first Chicken Shack LP, but on the follow-up Perfect shares the writing credit with Webb on just two numbers while he takes the sole credit on an additional four.

It would be interesting to know what Webb’s contribution was to the following number as he cannot be heard on the original studio recording.

It is a song that she must have enjoyed playing, as she added it to Fleetwood Mac’s (when Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan were fronting the band) set-list in 1971 and used it to open the shows on their first tour with Buckingham / Nicks in 1975.

Chicken Shack

Christine Perfect: vocal & piano /

Andy Sylvester: bass / Dave Bidwell: drums /

(Guest musician) Johnny Almond: tenor saxophone

Recorded October 22, 23, 1968

Released on “O.K. Ken?” (Blue Horizon) February 1969

Get Like You used to Be (C. Perfect & S. Webb) (3:08)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8F061LCJ4Q

There is a faint echo of echo of ‘When the Train Comes Back’ from the first LP, but Perfect and the rhythm section quickly dispel it with the rocksteady rhythm that they lay down.  Sylvester mirrors Perfect’s bass notes and Bidwell’s clicking sticks underscore Perfect’s brief right-hand flourishes.

The boozy tempo and deep resonance of the piano notes provide a bluesy barrelhouse ambiance for Perfect’s smoky alto to unfurl in.

Johnny Almond’s tenor saxophone slithers into view as Perfect finishes the first line, snaking through the verses, adding a welcome touch of rhythm and blues.

Almond’s saxophone takes the break, it’s scolding tone backed by the threat of Perfect’s rolling bass notes and Bidwell’s drums.

Coming out of the break, having had her say, Perfect switches to sweet talking, her threat to find someone new undercut by a downshift to a stop time verse which finds her ready to forgive and forget and resume their love making.

 

In April of 1969, Chicken Shack released their fourth U.K. single, Perfect’s rendition of Etta James’ ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’.  Recently married to John McVie, Perfect left the band the same day the was released.  It was the band’s first single to hit the charts, peaking at number fourteen.

It was the sound of that record (not surprisingly, considering its success) that informed her first solo LP.  Most of the songs were mid-tempo and only two, ‘Let Me Go’ and the ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’ inspired ‘For You’ featured her on piano.  The anemic organ used on her take on Little Walter’s ‘Can’t Hold Out Much Longer’ (retitled ‘Crazy ‘Bout You Baby’) is ample proof of why the piano is preferable.

By the time her album was released, she was a full-time member of Fleetwood Mac and had already done a tour of the States.

There is a poor quality bootleg of their show at the Fillmore East on August twenty-eighth 1970 and the number has already begun to change.  The tempo has been picked up and Spencer’s slide accents the verses.

Building on the changes already instituted, the number was overhauled once again when they returned in early 1971.

Fleetwood Mac

Christine McVie: vocal & piano /

Jeremy Spencer: guitar & vocal /

Danny Kirwan: guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded live, February 10, 1971

Vancouver Gardens, Vancouver, Canada

Available on “Preachin’ the Blues” (Secret Records) 2011

 

Get Like You used to Be (C. Perfect & S. Webb) (3:49)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcujTwDkVz8

They have kept the faster tempo, but Kirwan’s rhythm guitar is brought to the fore and he uses a “dirty” sound as he pounds out a jagged beat.  Spencer’s slide accents help propel the number and the two guitarists join Perfect on the chorus, a three-part harmony attack that will eventually become a trademark of the later versions of the band.

Within the short running time they have also managed to squeeze in two guitar breaks.  The first, by Spencer, is uncharacteristically harsh; stuttering lines played with a shrill tone.

The second, of equal length finds Kirwan pushing his guitar to the point of distortion with creating a snapping, snarling break.

While it is fun to hear Spencer and Kirwan step outside their comfort zones, for me, this is the wrong song to do it on.  This “hard rock” style is a poor fit for the song and for the band itself.  They were trying to adapt their sound to the times, and were able to do so quite successfully on numbers such as ‘Station Man’ and ‘Purple Dancer’, but here, to paraphrase Chuck Berry, “…they play it too darn fast / and change the beauty of the melody”

Four years, and numerous personnel changes, later, Fleetwood Mac with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks fronting the band, were doing their first tour of the U.S.

To provide some sense of continuity with the previous line-ups, a number of songs were carried over from the years past.  C. McVie would open the shows on this tour with ‘Get Like You Used To Be’, reworking it for the new line-up.

Fleetwood Mac

Christine McVie: vocal & piano /

Lindsey Buckingham: guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded live, October 05, 1975

Capitol Center, Largo, Maryland

Unreleased, Available on YouTube, bootleg

Tuning, introduction (1:09) / Get Like You used to Be (C. Perfect & S. Webb) (3:41) / (5:00)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj5eG19fjg0&list=RDbj5eG19fjg0&start_radio=1

C. McVie reclaims the song here, finding an excellent balance between a faster paced, more arena appropriate sound and one that still allows her to put the point of the song across.

Most importantly, the piano is once again the dominant instrument.  With the band providing support only, you can once again hear the lyrics and the meaning that C. McVie puts behind them.

The break is broken into three parts: Buckingham opens with a signature lick (see, ‘Don’t Stop’) and then hands it off to C. McVie for a turn on the keyboard before she hands it back to Buckingham who sets her up for a rousing finish.

The changes that C. McVie has brought to the arrangement and her willingness to revisit and reinterpret a number to adapt it the musicians she is playing with and the audience that she is playing speak to talents as a craftsperson as well as an artist.

Happy Birthday.

2 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Ron Chambliss July 14, 2018 (12:22 pm)

    Within your very nice article above you say: “By the time her album was released, she was a full-time member of Fleetwood Mac and had already done a tour of the States.” Richard, I don’t think this is actually true. Her album was released June 12, 1970. Peter had only left Fleetwood Mac the month before. I met them back stage when they played in Los Angeles August 1970 for the Kiln Hours tour. They told me backstage that she had just officially joined as they started their American tour. Even though she helped in the recording of Kiln House she was not an “official” member until this tour. This also would have been her first tour of the USA as well.

    • comment-avatar
      Rich Orlando July 15, 2018 (8:18 am)

      Ron,
      Thank you for the correction – I was under the impression that her album was released in December of 1970 (possibly in the U.S.? – need to do a bit more research)
      Appreciate your taking the time to write